Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Depression Era Heritage in Thornleigh?

Sandstone hut - Thornleigh
There was a very interesting article in the October 2012 issue of the The Monthly Chronicle entitled Mysterious Stone Structures - Can you help?

It reports on the discovery by Stephen Pym, a bushland field officer, of "some interesting sandstone structures" on land leased by Scouts Australia NSW near the Baden-Powell Scout Centre in Orchard Street, Thornleigh, NSW.

We visited the site, located on a track on the southern edge of the scout land near where it adjoins the Lane Cove National Park. The track is marked by a wooden walkway just off the main perimeter track.

Indeed the site is a real historical treasure. While not being able to furnish any precise details of habitation or ownership, we can postulate that the area was at some time someone's permanent home.

Closer inspection of the "rock shelter" reveals a piped air vent and the remains of a door fitting suggesting a permanent hut for accommodation. Adjacent to the hut is an area where there is evidence of fires having been lit.

View of hut showing air vent (pipe in top left corner) and
 the evidence of a door fitting on the right hand wall entrance

Closer view of the door fitting 

Area adjacent to the hut showing evidence of fires

Also the inhabitant had obviously had made a significant attempt to landscape the area as seen in the several layers of gardens supported by retaining walls, carved out steps and innovative garden structures.

Sandstone steps 

Garden bed formed in a rock base with a shaped cement top

A wide shot of the garden bed and steps

Layered sections of garden with retaining walls
A landscape garden

On the website of the Baden-Powell Scout Centre , it states that "during the Depression, the Centre became the permanent camping site for many who were out of work, and they built the camping flats, chapel and many of the stone paths and gardens".

In previous blogs, History Services NSW has explored Depression Era Housing on Sydney Harbour (23 November 2010) and in Conscript Pass and Lorna Brand  (25 April 2011) has told the story of how the nearby Lorna Pass was built as a relief effort during the Depression.

It would be excellent if the story of the "house and garden site" in Thornleigh could be acknowledged by way of signage or a memorial to preserve its heritage.


If you are interested in researching Australian history go to our website at :

All photos taken November 2012

Blog prepared by Mary McGuinness

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